Labor Day more than summer end — Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means — A Somber Labor Day — An End of Summer Quiz — End of summer — or end of the world? Forecasts paint a bleak picture for fall travel — Vincent van Gogh Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes (Kunstmuseum Basel Exhibition)

28bb35edb7Summer Evening, June 1888

Historian: Labor Day more than summer end


Most people mark Labor Day as a sendoff to summer and a reminder not to wear white, but don’t really know what’s behind the holiday, historians say.

“I think in some ways the fact that so many people will celebrate Monday and get the day off without realizing the struggle that went into it is sort of symbolic of that struggle,” Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, told the San Diego Union Tribune in an interview published Monday. “It’s kind of ironic.”

The modern-day work week — eight-hour work days, health insurance, pension, paid holidays and two days off were “earned literally with the blood, sweat and tears of generations of Americans who sacrificed to make it happen,” said Charles Chafe, executive director of Change to Win, a national umbrella organization of labor unions.

“It’s really important on Labor Day for folks to reflect on all they have,” Chafe said. “We owe it to this proud tradition and heritage to look for ways to stand up and make sure working people are treated with dignity and respect.”

The first Labor Day parade was in New York in 1882, the Union-Tribune reported. About 10,000 marchers took an unpaid day to demonstrate against what was then the workplace norm: 12-hour days, seven days a week.


Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) Landscape near Essoyes (Landscape with two Figures), 1892

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.


Grain Harvest in Provence, June 1888

A Somber Labor Day

Real Clear Politics: By Robert Samuelson
WASHINGTON — The first Labor Day, held in New York City in 1882, was less a celebration of the dignity of work than a demonstration in favor of the eight-hour day, down from the prevailing 10 to 12 hours. Compared to then, American workers have come a long way. Congress made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894, and over the years, it evolved into a day off rather than a moment to reflect on the state of labor, broadly defined and extending beyond unions. Well, not this year.

It’s the bleakest Labor Day since at least the early 1980s (unemployment in September 1982: 10.1 percent ). With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent in August and expected to go higher, cheery news is scarce. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, has painted a statistical portrait of today’s labor market. Here are some lowlights:


— Since the recession’s start in December 2007, the number of lost payroll jobs totals 6.9 million. A third of today’s jobless have been unemployed more than six months, almost double the share a year ago and a post-World War II high.

— Wage growth has slowed dramatically. In the first half of 2007, all private wages and salaries rose at an annual rate of 3.7 percent; in the first half of 2009, the increase was 1.3 percent.

— The unemployment and “underemployment” rate is 16.8 percent — this includes the officially unemployed plus all part-time workers who’d prefer full-time jobs, as well as discouraged and demoralized job-seekers who have stopped looking for work.

Job anxiety has also increased sharply, according to opinion surveys compiled by Karlyn Bowman of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. A Gallup poll in August found that 31 percent of workers worried about being laid off, up from 15 percent a year earlier; 32 percent thought their wages might be cut, up from 16 percent; and 46 percent feared fringe benefits might be reduced, up from 27 percent.

What’s most ominous is not today’s job market; it’s the outlook. After the 1981-82 recession, unemployment dropped steadily from an annual average of 9.7 percent in 1982 to 7.5 percent in 1984 and 5.5 percent in 1988. The descent this time is expected to be much slower. In 2014, the unemployment rate will still average 7.6 percent, forecasts IHS Global Insight, which predicts a peak of 10 percent early next year. Reducing unemployment requires an economic expansion fast enough to absorb today’s jobless plus the natural growth of the labor force. Most forecasters expect a tepid recovery will only gradually dent unemployment, despite slowing labor force growth.

“The 1982 recession was largely caused by the desire to break the back of inflation,” says economist Nigel Gault of IHS. “Once the (Federal Reserve) was comfortable it had broken inflation, it lowered interest rates, and economic growth took off.” Interest-sensitive sectors — autos and housing — propelled recovery. By contrast, today’s slump results from financial crisis, Gault says. The Fed has already cut interest rates, which will probably go up. As overborrowed households repay debt, their spending will be sluggish. The weak recovery then retards new jobs.

The implications of prolonged high unemployment — should it materialize — haven’t been fully explored. People without work don’t acquire on-the-job skills. Young college graduates are already having trouble getting work. High unemployment could depress wage gains for years. It could foster protectionism and long-term poverty. “In a tight economy like the late 1990s, firms are more willing to take chances on more disadvantaged workers,” says Harvard economist Larry Katz. EPI’s Lawrence Mishel thinks the effects on low-income families would be devastating; the child poverty rate could jump from 18 percent in 2007 to 27 percent, he says.

Of course, today’s bleak economic forecasts could be wrong — just as upbeat forecasts before the financial crisis were wrong. Some economists are warming to greater optimism. “Global manufacturers cut output too deeply,” says David Hensley of JPMorgan Chase. “People thought we might be headed into another Depression.” Here and abroad, he says, companies are reversing previous cutbacks. “Businesses overshot. They’ll snap back (in hiring); that will fuel consumer spending.” One good omen: In August, an index of online job vacancies rose 5 percent, reports the Conference Board.

Job creation has been an historic strength of the American economy. Its capacity to remain so will increasingly frame the economic debate: between those who want more government and those who want less; between those who fear budget deficits and those who favor more economic “stimulus”; between those who see meager wage gains as impeding recovery and those who see them as encouraging hiring. On Labor Day 2009, future jobs are the nation’s gigantic question mark.


Claude Monet (1840–1926) The Mediterranean at Antibes, 1888

An End of Summer Quiz

NYT Op-Ed Columnist, By GAIL COLLINS Published: September 4, 2009

As the summer of ’09 slinks off into the sunset, let’s take a minute to reminisce. Who would have thought, when it began, that we’d spend two whole months burying Michael Jackson? Or arguing about whether or not Barack Obama wanted to pull the plug on grandma?

I think we have a theme, people. “Ghoulish” is not a word you normally attach to “vacation season” except in certain teen-slasher movies. Yet here we are.

Passions about health care ran so high! Just this week, we heard about a clash of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators in which one man got a piece of his finger chomped off. Without taking sides on who started the fight, I am going to come right out and say that this is a bad plan. You cannot achieve universal health coverage by biting off somebody’s pinkie.

Anyway, let’s see how much attention you’ve been paying:

I. Match the locale and the protester:

A) Man with loaded handgun strapped to his thigh shows up for an Obama town hall meeting.

B) Man carrying assault rifle shows up at Obama speech to veterans.

C) Congressman holding town hall meeting is greeted by a raucous crowd including at least one participant packing heat.

D) Congresswoman holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a local supermarket is greeted by demonstrators, one of whom has a pistol holstered under his armpit which falls and bounces to the floor.

1) Phoenix

2) Douglas, Ariz.

3) Memphis

4) Portsmouth, N.H.


II. How my state spent the summer:

A) The governor is being sued by a cocktail waitress, who claims he assaulted her outside a nightclub; the lieutenant governor is facing felony charges for misusing state funds; the junior U.S. senator admits he had an affair with his campaign bookkeeper.

B) After the governor was impeached for trying to sell a Senate seat, his wife tried to help support the family by competing on a TV reality show, where she ate a tarantula. When last seen, her husband seemed to have embarked on a new career as a professional Elvis impersonator.

C) A hot race for governor was interrupted when prosecutors indicted three mayors, two state assemblymen, five rabbis and a guy who was allegedly running an organ-trafficking business.

D) Two Democratic state senators switched parties, throwing control to the Republicans, then switched back again. One of them is under indictment for attacking his girlfriend with a broken glass. The other one was named majority leader and promptly tried to give his son a $120,000 Senate job.

1) New Jersey

2) Nevada

3) Illinois

4) New York


III. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota or Sarah Palin?

A) “Right now we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom in this country.”

B) “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’. …”

C) Refuses to fill out her census form.

D) Urged people to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax.”

E) Going to China to address an investors forum sponsored by a Hong Kong brokerage firm.

F) “Only dead fish go with the flow.”


IV. Affairs to remember (Match the admitted adulterers and their quotes)

A) “I made a very difficult decision to tell the truth. …”

B) “Let’s not make decisions based on hyperbole.”

C) “I haven’t done anything legally wrong.”

D) “There was a gentle shyness … that I found endearing.”

1) Senator John Ensign

2) Basketball coach Rick Pitino

3) Sheryl Weinstein, mistress of Bernie Madoff

4) Gov. Mark Sanford


V. Match the reality TV stars:

A) “I had no idea how fuzzy it was … and how all-encompassing that richness of flavor was going to be.”

B) “She’ll call me like, almost like a lame fish.”

C) “The photo shoot was so much fun. It was like going to Disneyland.”

D) “I was jumping up and down going, ‘Thank You, Lord.’ ”

1) Jon Gosselin, of “Jon & Kate Plus 8”

2) Michelle Duggar, mother in “18 and Counting,” who is expecting her 19th child.

3) Tom DeLay, after his invitation to compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”

4) Actor Lou Diamond Phillips after beating the ex-governor’s wife in tarantula eating.


ANSWERS: I. A-4, B-1, C-3, D-2; II. A-2, B-3, C-1, D-4; III. Bachmann: A, C, D, and Palin: B, E, F; IV. A-2, B-4, C-1, D-3; V. A-4, B-1, C-3, D-2


Claude Monet (1840–1926)The Footbridge over the Water-Lily Pond, 1919

End of summer — or end of the world? Forecasts paint a bleak picture for fall travel

Will the summer of 2009 go in like a lion and and out like a lamb?

After a promising start to the travel season, AAA this morning said it expects Labor Day travel activity to drop by 13 percent compared with last year.

Separately, a new forecast by Bing Travel predicts holiday airfares will drop precipitously.

This year, airfare for Thanksgiving travel to domestic destinations averages $327, down 22 percent from 2008 and virtually on par with 2007 fares. Christmas and New Year’s holiday airfare to domestic destinations averages $353, down 17 percent from this point in 2008, but still about 8 percent above 2007 fares.

The outlook for hotels is equally bad — or, if you’re a guest, good.

Throughout September, October and November, premium domestic hotel rates are down 13 percent from their 2008 prices, averaging about $186 per night. This trend holds true for all major U.S. cities except one: Honolulu. Premium hotel rates in Honolulu are averaging about $166 per night, about 5 percent higher than at this time last year.

According to the Bing Travel Rate Indicator, premium hotels in New York are down as much as 30 percent, and rates in Chicago and Las Vegas are down as much as 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively. San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., also have deeply discounted hotel rates throughout the fall.

For a little insight into what’s happening, let’s turn to AAA.

As was true for households grappling with travel decisions earlier in the summer, there is a mixed bag of economic considerations to weigh. Continued job losses and weakened household incomes continue to dampen enthusiasm for travel, but are offset by lower travel prices and somewhat improved consumer confidence.

Factors moderating the decline in travel include airline fares, which are likely to be 12 percent below last year’s levels, and gasoline prices, which remain about 25-30 percent below last year’s levels.

It’s not all bad news, though.

It is not only economic conditions that affect Americans’ decision to travel, the decision to travel can be influenced by much more enduring reasons, such as on what day of the week or month the holiday falls and whether the holiday is “early” or “late”.

Last year, Labor Day fell on September 1, allowing many families to schedule long vacations before their children returned to school. Gasoline prices also began falling in mid-July last year after reaching an all-time record high of $4.11 per gallon. This, combined with the earliness of the holiday and the emergence of end-of-summer travel discounts, caused large numbers of Americans who may not have vacationed earlier in the summer to make a last-minute decision to travel. As a result, Labor Day weekend travel was unusually strong, increasing 26 percent to 45.1 million travelers in 2008.

With Labor Day falling almost a full week later in 2009, many children will have returned to school, holding down Labor Day holiday travel.

Bottom line? This is going to be a very interesting fall.


Vincent van Gogh
Between Earth and Heaven: The Landscapes

April 26 – September 27, 2009

In a spectacular, comprehensive exhibition taking place from April to September 2009, the Kunstmuseum Basel is staging the first showing worldwide of the landscape paintings by the legendary artist Vincent van Gogh. Seventy paintings – both world-famous key works as well as paintings barely seen previously by the general public – will give a completely new insight into van Gogh’s body of work. In addition, forty masterpieces by contemporaries, from Kunstmuseum Basel’s world-famous collection, will place van Gogh’s groundbreaking approach to nature in a broader context. A multimedia introduction to the life and work of van Gogh will open up the exhibition to the general public. This makes the exhibition the most important European art event in 2009.

The environs where Van Gogh lived affected him and his art profoundly. For the first time in the world, a survey of his landscape paintings is being presented at the Kunstmuseum Basel. On the basis of seventy masterpieces from major museums and private collections in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, the cosmos of his pioneering art will be on view.

By concentrating on the landscape paintings, we learn to understand and experience Vincent van Gogh in a completely new light. In his encounter with nature he found his way, step by step, to his own artistic language and, in doing so, to a radically new freedom in painting.

Thus we can see directly for ourselves how the earthy hues of the early Dutch works made way in Paris to a lighter and color-flushed style of painting. Then in the south of France, Van Gogh arrived at the intensely luminous coloring and vitalizing expression that, still today, make his paintings so fascinating.

During every phase of his brief productive life in Arles, as well as during his stay at the sanatorium of Saint-Rémy and finally in Auvers, he celebrated in his paintings the glory of creation. With themes such as the sower, flowering fruit trees, the wheat harvest or the reaper, he reaffirmed the eternal cycle of nature’s renewable forces.

While painting outdoors in natural surroundings, the restless Van Gogh found his own voice and achieved a harmony and equilibrium that was otherwise so often denied to this difficult solitary. The exhibition will present an impressive panorama of Van Gogh’s world: village or river views, garden or park scenery, farmland or land already under industrial use.


Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) View of Mount Sainte-Victoire from Lauves, 1904/1906

Landscapes by Van Gogh’s Contemporaries – Works from the Collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel

The Landscapes is accompanied by a presentation of landscape paintings by his contemporaries. When Van Gogh arrived in Paris in 1886, he had only a rough idea of current tendencies in French painting. Thanks to his brother Theo, who was an art dealer in Paris, he quickly discovered the full spectrum of contemporary trends. As the artists appreciated Theo, they welcomed his brother Vincent with open arms. Soon Vincent was coming and going in the studios of the French capital. Coming to grips with the impulses of contemporary French art would be a decisive experience that helped him to unleash his own artistic potential. He made friends with some of the artists, among them Paul Gauguin, who later visited him in Arles. Van Gogh became acquainted with other artists via their works, which he saw in exhibitions or was shown by dealers.

The exhibition brings together landscape paintings by the older, middle and younger generations of French artists. The start is made by works by Camille Corot, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Impressionist landscapes are represented by artists such as Claude Monet, Paul Signac, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro. They are joined by the other great fore-runners of modern art: Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne. These perspectives ultimately lead to the fiercely coloured landscapes of the Fauves André Derain, Georges Braque, Maurice de Vlaminck and Henri Matisse.


Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) Landscape with Red Roof, 1885


Birth, schooling and first jobs

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born to a pastor’s family on March 30th 1853 as the first of six children. Four years later his brother Theo, Vincent’s most important point of reference, was born. Following his schooling, van Gogh began an apprenticeship at an art dealer’s in The Hague. However, since van Gogh had only a limited interest in the art trade, he quit this position after six years. Between 1876 and 1880 he worked in England and Belgium, as an assistant preacher, among other things. Van Gogh suffered increasingly under the pressure of having to define for himself a profession that would make him a living, but also fulfill him. His efforts to find a place in society failed, just as did his attempt to take up the study of theology.


v_1_01The begin of his art career

In 1880 van Gogh first took up an art career. His brother Theo, who now worked as an art dealer, began supporting Vincent financially. In October 1880 van Gogh signed up at the Art Academy in Brussels, but found that learning on his own suited him more, so that he soon left the academy. Vincent had to fight depression; first thoughts of suicide emerged. In The Hague he met artists from the Hague School and was given encouraging stimulus by his cousin Anton Mauve. During his time in The Hague, van Gogh worked directly from nature and discovered oil painting on his own. In 1885 his father died. At the end of October, he traveled to Antwerp and tried his luck at the painting and drawing class of the École des Beaux-Arts.


Departure for Paris

In the spring of 1886, van Gogh moved to Paris, thus arriving at the focal point of the European art scene. After his first meetings with John Russell, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Emile Bernard, he – through Theo – made the acquaintance of Impressionism’s most important artists, among whom: Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Paul Signac and Goerges Seurat. Under their influence, van Gogh turned from his, up to then, preferred brown and earth tones and adopted a lighter palette. In winter he made friends with Paul Gauguin. In 1887 van Gogh participated in an exhibition at Café du Tambourin that included works by Bernard, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. Vincent exhibited further paintings with, among others, Bernard and Toulouse-Lautrec at the restaurant Du Chalet. The artists called themselves Peintres du Petit Boulevard.


The fresh, light colours of the south

In February 1888, van Gogh departed for Arles. It was the fresh, light colours and the warm atmosphere of the south that lured him to the Provence. There he did almost two hundred paintings and over one hundred drawings and water colours. In the spring of 1888, he painted pictures of orchards, in the summer scenes of the grain harvest. In August 1888, along with landscapes, van Gogh worked on a series of portraits. In keeping with his dream of establishing an artists’ community in Arles, he invited his Paris friends to come to Arles, but only Gauguin accepted his invitation. Unfortunately this community of two did not last long. The relationship between the effusive Gauguin and the nervously overwrought van Gogh suffered from constant friction. Which soon erupted in a confrontation. In a fit, van Gogh, on the night of 23 December 1888, cut off a piece of his left ear, whereupon Gauguin left. His neighbours in Arles arranged for this “fou roux” to be interned in a clinic. Fearful of his own unpredictability, in May 1889 van Gogh presented himself voluntarily at the sanatorium Saint-Paul-de-Mausole near Saint-Rémy. In the sanatorium Vincent had a studio at his disposal. He began to paint again, at first the view from his window; later, when accompanied, he was allowed to work outdoors.


The last years

In 1889 and 1890 works by van Gogh were exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, at Les Vingt in Brussels and at the 1890 Salon des Indépendants. Major art critics began publishing appreciative articles on van Gogh. In May 1890 he moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, about 30 kilometres fromParis. There he was under the personal care of the doctor, collector and hobby artist, Paul Gachet. He painted almost eighty pictures in Auvers, above all, landscapes and portraits.

On July 20th 1890 van Gogh wrote his last letter to Theo. Two days later Vincent turned a pistol on himself during an evening walk and was gravely wounded. On July 29th Vincent van Gogh died at the age of 37.


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